Learning to Follow Jesus

Written by Dr. Ed Gallagher

Stanley Hauerwas has said, “We do not fall in love and then get married. We get married and then learn what love requires.” The same point could be made about the Christian life.While our initial response to the gospel through confession and baptism represents our commitment to living in the way that Jesus directed, we learn what this commitment means only through the long arc of our lives. In a sense, we “get married” to Jesus and then learn what love requires.

The first disciples—excited over their large haul of fish—immediately pledged their lives to Jesus (Luke 5:1–11), not yet realizing what that pledge would entail. Like a couple on their honeymoon, those early disciples probably expected their relationship with Jesus to be easy and full of joy. As it turned out, they did receive joy overflowing, but it was not so easily won as they might have imagined. They learned what love requires day by day, challenge by challenge (see Mark 10:28). Paul’s similar hardships led to similar joy (Acts 9:16; 2 Cor. 4:16–18).

The Christian life is full of joy, but it is not easy. Soon enough the initial ecstasy at hearing the gospel gives way to the stark reality that the way of Jesus is strait and narrow, and too often this realization leads a person to walk away, as Jesus anticipated (Mark 4:16–17). For those with ears to hear and eyes to see—and especially with hearts open to the ways of love—we accept these hardships, just as we do in our marriages and our relationships with our parents and children, grateful to learn what love requires.